Serb forces carried out a genocide of Bosnian Muslims 24 years ago. Survivors recall the brutality they witnessed first hand.
In July 1995, Serb forces entered the UN-protected zone of Srebrenica and slaughtered at least 7,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys in an act of genocide.
The main perpetrators responsible for the genocide, Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, were later convicted of genocide at UN-administered trials in 2016 and 2017 respectively.
Nearly a quarter of a century later, the families of the victims are still grappling with the aftermath, as the search for remains continues.
For those who survived, the memories also refuse to go away and are as fresh as they were that July 24 years ago.
Adel Sabanovic was a teenager in Srebrenica searching houses near his own for water and food when he was captured by Serb forces.
“They slaughtered eight people there, raped women and girls, and with the help of Allah my grandma saved me from the hands of Serb soldiers,” he recalled when speaking to TRT World.
A Serb soldier ordered Adel to pour out water to clean his bloodstained hands and wash the bloodied knives after he had killed Bosnian Muslims.
“They were this big and covered in blood. The tarpaulin was also bloody, the orange one, I still remember that,” Sabanovic said.
In a nearby house, Serb soldiers had detained Bosnian Muslim girls ages around 15 or 16 and subjected them to rapes and beatings.
“Those screams are still echoing in my ears. At night I don’t sleep with the lights off,” he said.
Estimates on the number of women raped during the Bosnian War range from 20,000 to 50,000 women, the overwhelming majority of whom were Bosnian Muslim women.
A glimmer of humanity
But in the midst of the genocidal slaughter, there were also rare stories of humanity winning out over bloodlust.
Fahrudin Muminovic took refuge under a bed when he and his father were warned by a man that ‘Chetniks’ (Serb Nationalists) were approaching.
They were captured nevertheless at home and were taken away for execution with several others.
“They waited until night. There were more people, not just the two of us. As we left home, they put blindfolds on our eyes,” Muminovic recalled, adding:
“The white band fell off of my eyes, and I asked my father to put it back on, but the Chetnik said, no I will do it. He tied it, very tight.”
The men and boys were forced to lay face down on the ground as the Serb forces prepared to shoot them but Muminovic was spared at the last moment.
The teenager had caught the attention of a Serb Red Cross driver who approached the soldiers asking them to allow him to kill the boy.
The soldiers agreed and allowed the man to take Muminovic away but instead of killing him the Red Cross worker took him to a hospital where he was treated for his injuries and from where he eventually reached safety, surviving the war.
Adel Sabanovic and Fahrudin Muminovic were part of a fortunate few who escaped genocide despite the odds.
Their survival came with its own traumas, lost loved ones, and memories of brutality that will stay with them for life.